Follow by Email

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Seek out an Englishman! George Johnston; Charmian Clift; George Bernard Shaw

I am not sure if George Johnston, in his 1960 novel "Closer to the Sun", quotes George Bernard Shaw correctly, but it is worth repeating what a character in the novel has to say (p. 19):

"Shaw was perfectly right when he said that if you wished to be totally misinformed about a foreign country you must seek out an Englishman who has lived there twenty-five years and speaks the language like a native".

George Johnston. OBE (1912 – 1970) was an Australian writer; his wife and literary collaborator was the writer Charmian Clift (1923-1969).

There are many evocative passages about the island of Hydra ('Silenus') in George Johnston's novel, "Closer to the Sun" (1960) and some powerful descriptions of the relationship between the two main characters, David and Kate Meredith. I have just finished reading the novel, which is not wholly satisfactory or involving, but the following paragraphs (particularly the longer, middle section, below) impressed me as authentic and revealing of the personalities and the period.

I do recommend four of George Johnston's short stories, included in the collection "Strong-Man from Piraeus and other stories" (George Johnston and Charmian Clift, chosen by Gary Kinnane, 1984): "Sponge Boat", "Astypalaian Knife", "Strong-man from Piraeus", and "Vale, Pollini!"


  1. Hi Jim , The opening passages about the island waking in the early morning I found very evocative. This book had a cinematic feel to it. Probably written after George had seen a few movies filmed on Hydra?

  2. P.S. "Vale Pollini" is a true story. I have met people that were on Hydra when this was set up.They still laugh about it.

  3. Thanks for your helpful comments, which I had missed in June. Apologies for the delay, I welcome comments, but I no longer seem to receive email alerts when new ones are sent. Jim